Nigerian publisher Cassava Republic has begun distributing books through Consortium in the United States, following a successful launch in the U.K. in April last year. “We see the U.S. as a big potential market,” said publisher Bbi Bakare-Yusuf, “there is a significant Nigerian diaspora population in the United States and a growing interest in Africa and African books.”
The publishing house was founded in 2006 in Abuja and publishes a wide range of fiction and nonfiction; it is credited as the first company to publish several now well-known Nigerian novelists, including Teju Cole and Helon Habila, and has been a vocal proponent of publishing women writers.
For its American debut, the company started with Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by San Francisco-based author Sarah Laid Manyika, published in April. Cassava Republic’s edition of Manyika’s first novel In Dependence has sold more than two million copies in Nigeria, where it is required reading for school graduation examinations. In May the publisher released Season of Crimson Blossoms by Ababukar Adam Ibrahim. Both titles feature the erotic stories of older women and were favorably reviewed by PW, with the latter getting a star. The summer months will bring a more eclectic selection, including the nonfiction study Highlife Giants: West African Dance Band Pioneers and a pair of children’s books by Mylo Freeman.
Asked why she decided to expand to the U.S., Bakare-Yusuf said that it was partially about “legitimacy” and would play well at home, giving her publishing a house an edge in attracting talent. But, she added, there’s something more at stake than mere pragmatism: “Our aim is to show the broader reading audience that there is more to African life and literature than what you might read in the news. We know that many Americans will pick up these books out of curiosity at first. But they will find stories that they themselves can relate to and characters they can identify with.”